Active drug safety surveillance: a tool to improve public health†‡

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Abstract

Purpose

Ensuring that drugs have an acceptable safety profile and are used safely is a major public health priority. The Centers for Education and Research on Therapeutics (CERTs) convened experts from academia, government, and industry to assess strategies to increase the speed and predictive value of generating and evaluating safety signals, and to identify next steps to improve the US system for identifying and evaluating potential safety signals.

Methods

The CERTs convened a think tank comprising representatives of the groups noted above to address these goals.

Results

Participants observed that, with the increasing availability of electronic health data, opportunities have emerged to more accurately characterize and confirm potential safety issues. The gain for public health from a highly coordinated network of population-based databases for active surveillance is great and within reach, although operational questions remain. A collaborative network must create a working definition of a safety signal, screening algorithms, and criteria and strategies to confirm or refute a signal once identified through screening. Guidelines are needed for when and how to communicate a signal exists and is being evaluated, as well as the outcome of that evaluation.

Conclusion

A public-private partnership to create a network of government and private databases to routinely evaluate and prioritize safety questions is in the public interest. Better methods are needed, and a knowledgeable workforce is required to conduct the surveillance and understand how to interpret the results. The international community will benefit from the availability of better methods and more experts.

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